Chicago mayor nominates city's 1st female fire commissioner

Mayor Lori Lightfoot chose Acting Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt to be the first woman to head the Chicago Fire Department

Gregory Pratt
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot has chosen Annette Nance-Holt to become the first woman ever to lead the Chicago Fire Department, she announced at a graduation ceremony for paramedics on Friday.

Nance-Holt has been with the Fire Department for more than 30 years and was elevated to its No. 2 spot as first deputy commissioner in 2018. She has been the department’s acting commissioner since her predecessor, Richard Ford, retired earlier this year.

“The Fire Department must have membership and leadership that mirrors the communities it serves every day. As a child, I never laid eyes on either a female firefighter or a firefighter of color,” Nance-Holt, who is Black, said in a statement. “There were no role models who looked like me, and so I never thought that becoming a firefighter, which was my dream, would be a possibility for me. As Fire Commissioner, I intend to show the next generation of young Black women that they too can achieve any and everything they set their minds and hearts to.”


I'm proud to announce that Annette Nance-Holt will make history as not only the first woman but the first Black woman to...

Posted by Chicago Mayor's Office on Friday, May 14, 2021

Holt’s appointment requires City Council approval.

Nance-Holt’s son, Blair Holt, was 16 when he was gunned down aboard a CTA bus in 2007 as he tried to shield a friend from gunfire as a gang member shot at a rival.

Michael Pace was convicted in the 16-year-old’s murder and sentenced to 75 years in state prison.

Shortly after her son’s death, Nance-Holt cofounded Purpose Over Pain, a not-for-profit advocacy group for parents who’ve lost children to violence.

On the 10th anniversary of her son’s death, Nance-Holt choked up in front of TV cameras and reporters as she talked about how the pain of losing her son was still unbearable.

“Just to lose your legacy that you put so much into, for something that didn’t have to happen, I think that hurts more than anything,” she said in May 2017 on the day the city honored her son with a street sign bearing his name outside Percy Julian High School on the Far South Side, where he attended school.

“Just to get him taken away from me when I dropped him off at school that morning, coming home from the firehouse, and telling him to do good and that I loved him,” Nance-Holt said, “it’s just unbelievable in America.”


©2021 Chicago Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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